Tense finish in Sanya anticipated as wind hole strikes Clipper fleet

Less than 30 nautical miles separates the top two teams, and they are nervously looking over their shoulders at the chasing pack, as a wind hole has once again appeared on Day 21 of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race.

With a tense finish into Sanya now expected, PSP Logistics retains the lead for a second day after the previous race leader, Qingdao, failed to capitalise on being in Stealth Mode. The lead however does not look assured, PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell reports: “The lead that Qingdao and us had no longer looks so certain with how the forecast is developing. If all the stars align we should just keep ahead, although I expect the next group to catch us considerably. With just over 300 miles to go this is going to be right down to the wire.”

After being in the lead for six consecutive days before entering Stealth Mode, Qingdao Skipper is disappointed that the tactic did not work out for the team: “We sailed into another wind hole and were drifting with the current for most of the night. The Mainsail was just flopping from side to side and the spinnaker was hanging down like a curtain. Wind speed: 1 knot and decreasing. The rest of the fleet is getting closer and closer with every position report.”

Race finish may only be a couple or so days away but for third-placed Sanya Serenity Coast, arriving into its home port seems like such a long way away right now. Skipper Wendy Tuck has been reflecting that: “All this slowness will be forgotten as we have a great time during our stopover. It’s been a great race in regards to things like crew work, and everything has been happening without a hitch and quickly.”

Despite the light wind conditions, a close battle for third place has developed, with Unicef less than 10nm behind in fourth and Skipper Bob Beggs reporting: “We are not quite stopped and have two Clipper Race yachts [Sanya Serenity Coast and Dare To Lead] on the AIS.”

With Dare To Lead technically in Stealth Mode until 1159am (UTC), it is Liverpool 2018 that occupies fifth place today. The pink boat has stalled in the wind hole and is once again suffering with the heat, trying to find innovative ways to keep cool. Skipper Lance Shepherd jokily explains: “All the crew are in good spirits even though they’re talking about inciting a mutiny by starting the engine and motoring, not to race finish but to generate a breeze by motoring in circles.”

The teams behind have been catching up over the past 12 hours, with Visit Seattle in sixth and Garmin in seventh, and the latter’s Skipper, Gaëtan Thomas, remains optimistic despite the wind hole: “It was predicted, but shouldn't take too long before the breeze comes and fills in until Sanya!”

Another obstacle that his team, and eighth-placed HotelPlanner.com are facing right now though is the busy waters that they have entered and he adds: “Last night was again a busy night watching ships and fishing nets. Right now, on AIS, I have a total of more than 34 ships all around us.”

Nasdaq, which was in eighth place yesterday, has entered Stealth Mode until 2359 (UTC) in an attempt to hide from the competition but it is keeping a lookout on the busy traffic that the other teams are also encountering. Skipper Rob Graham explains: “We didn't see any of the islands or reefs that dot [the Luzon Strait], but we did see hundreds of ships at this crossroads in the ocean – making it just a bit too stressful to enjoy an otherwise beautiful starry night on a flat sea with favourable wind.”

At the back of the fleet, in ninth place, GREAT Britain has covered the most distance of any of the teams in the last 12 hours, having taken a more northerly route, and Skipper David Hartshorn reports: “We have slipped through the Luzon Strait, experiencing some of the turbulence caused by the Luzon Ridge, briefly leaving the eastern edge of the Pacific behind us as we are now heading into the South China Sea.

He adds: “We are also pondering a routing challenge this morning as another weather “transition” passes over the track in front of us, albeit briefly, we do not wish to lose any ground.”

It really will be an exciting finish as Simon Rowell, Clipper Race Meteorologist, reports that the breeze is filling in, but it will reach the teams to the east first before it reaches the leaders to the west of the fleet. Great for us armchair sailors, but more nail biting stuff for the teams involved!

Keep up to date with how the breeze affects the fleet via the Clipper Race Viewer and hear more from the Skippers and crew on the Team Pages.

Nominations for the Stormhoek Social Spirit Awards are now open, so please visit the Stormhoek Wines Facebook Page to say which Clipper Race team you feel has shown the most social spirit on this race and provide a reason why.

Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race will finish in Sanya Serenity Marina in Sanya, and the latest Estimated Arrival Times can be found on the Clipper Race website. With the finish line less than 1,000 nautical miles away, crew are excited to explore Sanya and all it has to offer during the stopover, and you can find out more here.

*All positions correct at time of writing 

JPK August 2023
JPK August 2023
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